A study published in the journal sex discovered a high risk of hypersexuality and depression among dating app users. According to the study authors, the findings may suggest that some people struggling with mental health issues or hypersexual tendencies are using dating apps as a coping mechanism.
Dating apps are extremely popular and many psychological studies have explored the personality profile that characterizes dating app users. Some studies have found mental health issues in users, such as risky sexual behavior and depression. Study author Giacomo Ciocca and his team wanted to explore two mutually correlated psychological traits that could influence the use of dating apps: hypersexuality and depression.
“Abundant evidence shows that the formation of couple relationships is often linked to the use of dating apps. In addition, sexual behavior is mediated by the use of these technological tools. Therefore, psychological research is called to study this contemporary phenomenon,” said Ciocca, researcher and assistant professor at Sapienza, University of Rome.
Hypersexuality involves obsessive thoughts and sexual urges and compulsive sexual behavior. This pattern of behavior mirrors addiction disorders, which is why hypersexuality is often referred to as “sex addiction.” These tendencies have been associated with depression, and there is evidence that hypersexual people use sex to cope with low moods and depressive states. Ciocca and his fellow researchers have proposed that hypersexual and depressive tendencies may cause some people to seek out dating apps.
To study the prevalence of hypersexuality and depression among dating app users, the researchers first recruited a convenience sample of 1,000 Italians via an online platform. The participants were between the ages of 18 and 60 and had no serious mental health problems. Participants completed sociodemographic questionnaires that included questions about their relationship status, sexual orientation, contraceptive use, and whether they were currently in a stable or casual sexual relationship. Importantly, participants were also asked if they used dating apps.
In addition, participants completed a depression symptom measure and the Hypersexual Behavior Inventory (HBI), which measures hypersexuality according to three factors. The ‘coping’ factor assesses the use of sexual behaviors as a response to distress, the ‘control’ factor assesses a lack of self-control over one’s sexual behavior, and the ‘consequences’ factor assesses the consequences of one’s sexual behavior and impulses (eg, interference with school and work).
About 12% of the sample said they use dating apps. When researchers compared survey responses between those who used dating apps and those who did not, they found that dating app users were more likely to have casual sex partners, while that nonusers were more likely to have stable sex. Although some studies have suggested that people who use dating apps are more likely to have unprotected sex, the results found that dating app users were more likely to use condoms than non-users. -users.
Dating app users also had higher overall scores for hypersexuality and higher scores than nonusers in each of the three HBI factors. Dating app users also had higher depression symptoms than non-users and were more likely to have severe or moderate depression symptoms. Further analysis revealed that dating app users were more likely to be male, under 40, single, and non-heterosexual.
“The use of dating apps, like any technological tool, is characterized by two aspects reflecting the two sides of the same coin. The use of the dating app is useful for meeting new people, new friendships and new partners, but it also hides some risks,” Ciocca told PsyPost.
The authors said these findings are the first to demonstrate a strong association between depression and compulsive sexual behavior in people who use dating apps. They say some people may use dating apps as a tool to cope with their problematic sexual behavior and to alleviate depressive feelings. According to the authors, “this evidence could mean that some hypersexual and/or depressed people recurrently use dating apps to relieve their psychological and sexological suffering”.
Alternatively, an additional variable could play a role. For example, since low self-esteem was previously associated with the use of dating apps, it may be that people seeking to boost their self-esteem through dating apps have higher levels of depression and hypersexuality.
Ciocca and her colleagues said their study was limited because it did not take into account additional relationship types like polyamory or open relationships and since the sample consisted of more women than men. Accordingly, they aim to drill down into the subgroups of their sample based on socio-demographic characteristics.
“Sexual behavior, as Alfred Kinsey said, is the result of physiological and morphological aspects and all the forces of the living and non-living environment,” Ciocca added. “Therefore, the study of the technological environment is fundamental for the knowledge of human sexuality and also for psychosexological health.”
The study, “Hypersexual Behavior and Symptoms of Depression in Dating App Users,” was authored by Giacomo Ciocca, Lilybeth Fontanesi, Antonella Robilotta, Erika Limoncin, Filippo Maria Nimbi, Daniele Mollaioli, Andrea Sansone, Elena Colonnello, Chiara Simonelli, Giorgio Di Lorenzo, and Emmanuele A. Jannini.